Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/6/12

Todd Coffey,with the Nationals in 2011, brings his hefty frame to the Dodgers. (MLB photos)

Whoever ends up buying the Los Angeles Dodgers has at least one area they can leave untouched. The team signed veteran reliever Todd Coffey, perhaps best known for his sprints from the bullpen, to a one year deal last Friday. The signing “rounds out,” perhaps literally based on the photo(right), a Dodgers relief staff which found itself shortchanged due to somewhat unusual circumstances.

The Dodgers did not re-sign left-handed reliever Hong Chih-Kuo due to both physical and mental setbacks. Kuo, an All-Star in 2010, was struck last season by the strange anxiety disorder where a pitcher suddenly loses his ability to throw strikes. He walked 23 batters in just 27 innings and finished the season with a 9.00 ERA. Kuo also underwent arm surgery for the fifth time this past fall making him an even riskier bet.

While Kuo was a “warrior,” per Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, it appears reliever Ronald Belisario will continue his flaky reputation for the third straight year. Belisario, who resides in Venezuela, went 4-3 with a 2.04 ERA in 2009 and was being counted on to play a major role in 2010.  But an arrest for driving under the influence late in the 2009 season brought to light an apparent substance abuse problem.  The resulting legal issues delayed his entry back into the United States in 2010 and he did not rejoin the team until about a month into the season. Belisario’s ongoing visa  matters caused him to miss the entire 2011 campaign and he was recently suspended for the first 25 games of 2012 due to an unspecified violation of baseball’s drug policy.

Coffey, 31, pitched for the Nationals in 2011 going 5-1 with a 3.62 ERA. His deal is reported to be about $1.3 million, up just a bit the $1.25 million Washington paid him  Coffey began his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005 and was being groomed as the closer after registering 8 saves in 12 chances in 2006. But he moved on to the Brewers in 2008 and spent three seasons with them.

I like this move from both a numbers and fan-friendly viewpoint. I imagine Coffey’s bullpen entrance will add a little bit of fun to what many expect to be a somewhat auspicious 2012 season due to the ownership change.   Meanwhile, he closed out 2011 with a lot of “statistical momentum,” so to speak. Coffey gave up just two runs and walked only three in his last 22 appearances of the season.

The addition of Coffey means the Dodgers bullpen will lean to the right next season.  The only lefty currently in the mix is Scott Elbert.  The rest of the bullpen includes righties  Javy Guerra(21 saves), Kenley Jansen(137 K’s in 80.2 innings lifetime),  and Matt Guerrier.  Right-handed veterans Mike MacDougal and Blake Hawksworth(2-5, 4.08 ERA), will probably enter spring training as the sixth and seventh relievers but could face challenges from second year right-handers Nathan Eovaldi(1-2,  3.63 ERA in 10 games) and Josh Lindblom (2.73 ERA in 27 relief appearances).


This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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